HB1519: Adoption; absence of parental consent.

HOUSE BILL NO. 1519
Offered January 12, 2011
Prefiled December 17, 2010
A BILL to amend and reenact §§ 63.2-1202, 63.2-1203, 63.2-1205, 63.2-1206, 63.2-1222, and 63.2-1233 of the Code of Virginia, relating to adoption of a child in the absence of parental consent.
Patron-- Orrock

Referred to Committee on Health, Welfare and Institutions

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia:

1.  That §§ 63.2-1202, 63.2-1203, 63.2-1205, 63.2-1206, 63.2-1222, and 63.2-1233 of the Code of Virginia are amended and reenacted as follows:

§ 63.2-1202. Parental, or agency, consent required; exceptions.

A. No petition for adoption shall be granted, except as hereinafter provided in this section, unless written consent to the proposed adoption is filed with the petition. Such consent shall be in writing, signed under oath and acknowledged before an officer authorized by law to take acknowledgments. The consent of a birth parent for the adoption of his child placed directly by the birth parent shall be executed as provided in § 63.2-1233, and the circuit court may accept a certified copy of an order entered pursuant to § 63.2-1233 in satisfaction of all requirements of this section, provided the order clearly evidences compliance with the applicable notice and consent requirements of § 63.2-1233.

B. A birth parent who has not reached the age of 18 shall have legal capacity to give consent to adoption and perform all acts related to adoption, and shall be as fully bound thereby as if the birth parent had attained the age of 18 years.

C. Consent shall be executed:

1. By the birth mother and by any man who:

a. Is an acknowledged father under § 20-49.1;

b. Is an adjudicated father under § 20-49.8;

c. Is a presumed father under subsection D; or

d. Has registered with the Putative Father Registry pursuant to Article 7 (§ 63.2-1249 et seq.) of this chapter.

Verification of compliance with the notice provisions of the Putative Father Registry shall be provided to the court.

2. By the child-placing agency or the local board having custody of the child, with right to place him for adoption, through court commitment or parental agreement as provided in § 63.2-900, 63.2-903 or 63.2-1221; or an agency outside the Commonwealth that is licensed or otherwise duly authorized to place children for adoption by virtue of the laws under which it operates; and

3. By the child if he is 14 years of age or older, unless the circuit court finds that the best interests of the child will be served by not requiring such consent.

D. A man shall be presumed to be the father of a child if:

1. He and the mother of the child are married to each other and the child is born during the marriage;

2. He and the mother of the child were married to each other and the child is born within 300 days of their date of separation, as evidenced by a written agreement or decree of separation, or within 300 days after the marriage is terminated by death, annulment, declaration of invalidity, or divorce; or

3. Before the birth of the child, he and the mother of the child married each other in apparent compliance with the law, even if the attempted marriage is or could be declared invalid, and the child is born during the invalid marriage or within 300 days of their date of separation, as evidenced by a written agreement or decree of separation, or within 300 days after its termination by death, annulment, declaration of invalidity, or divorce.

Such presumption may be rebutted by sufficient evidence that would establish by a preponderance of the evidence the paternity of another man or the impossibility or improbability of cohabitation with the birth mother for a period of at least 300 days prior to the birth of the child.

E. No consent shall be required of a birth father if he denies under oath and in writing the paternity of the child. Such denial of paternity may be withdrawn no more than 10 days after it is executed. Once the child is 10 days old, any executed denial of paternity is final and constitutes a waiver of all rights with respect to the adoption of the child and cannot be withdrawn.

F. No consent shall be required of the birth father of a child when the birth father is convicted of a violation of subsection A of § 18.2-61, § 18.2-63, subsection B of § 18.2-366, or an equivalent offense of another state, the United States, or any foreign jurisdiction, and the child was conceived as a result of such violation.

G. No notice or consent shall be required of any person whose parental rights have been terminated by a court of competent jurisdiction, including foreign courts that have competent jurisdiction. No notice or consent is required of any birth parent of a child whose adoption was finalized in a foreign country or for whom a guardianship order was granted when the child was approved by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services for purposes of adoption.

H. No consent shall be required of a birth parent who, without just cause, has neither visited nor contacted the child for a period of six months prior to immediately preceding the filing of the petition for adoption. The prospective adoptive parent(s) shall establish by clear and convincing evidence that the birth parent(s), without just cause, has neither visited nor contacted the child for a period of six months prior to immediately preceding the filing of the petition for adoption. This provision shall not infringe upon the birth parent's right to be noticed and heard on the allegation of abandonment. For purposes of this section, the payment of child support, in the absence of other contact with the child, shall not be considered contact.

I. A birth father of the child may consent to the termination of all of his parental rights prior to the birth of the child.

J. The failure of the nonconsenting party to appear at any scheduled hearing, either in person or by counsel, after proper notice has been given to said party, shall constitute a waiver of any objection and right to consent to the adoption.

K. If a birth parent or legal guardian, executing a consent, entrustment, or other documents related to the adoption, cannot provide the identification required pursuant to § 47.1-14, the birth parent may execute a self-authenticating affidavit as to his identity subject to the penalties contained in § 63.2-1217.

§ 63.2-1203. When consent is withheld or unobtainable.

A. If, after consideration of the evidence, the circuit court finds that the valid consent of any person or agency whose consent is required is withheld to the detriment of the child and contrary to the best interests of the child as set forth in § 63.2-1205, or is unobtainable, the circuit court may grant the petition without such consent:

1. Fifteen days after personal service of notice of petition on the party or parties whose consent is required by this section;

2. If personal service is unobtainable, ten 10 days after the completion of the execution of an order of publication against the party or parties whose consent is required by this section concerning the petition;

3. If a birth parent is deceased, upon the filing of a death certificate for a deceased birth parent with the court; or

4. If the judge certifies on the record that the identity of any person whose consent is hereinabove required is not reasonably ascertainable.

An affidavit of the birth mother that the identity of the birth father is not reasonably ascertainable shall be sufficient evidence of this fact, provided there is no other evidence before the circuit court that would refute such an affidavit. The absence of such an affidavit shall not be deemed evidence that the identity of the birth father is reasonably ascertainable. For purposes of determining whether the identity of the birth father is reasonably ascertainable, the standard of what is reasonable under the circumstances shall control, taking into account the relative interests of the child, the birth mother and the birth father.

B. If the child is not in the custody of a child-placing agency and both parents are deceased, the circuit court, after hearing evidence to that effect, may grant the petition without the filing of any consent.

§ 63.2-1205. Best interests of the child; standards for determining.

In determining whether the valid consent of any person whose consent is required is withheld to the detriment of the child and contrary to the best interests of the child, or is unobtainable, the circuit court or juvenile and domestic relations district court, as the case may be, shall consider whether (i) failure to grant the petition for adoption would be detrimental to the child and (ii) granting the petition pending before it for adoption would be in the best interest of the child. The circuit court or juvenile and domestic relations district court, as the case may be, shall consider all relevant factors, including the birth parent(s)' efforts to obtain or maintain legal and physical custody of the child; whether the birth parent(s) are currently willing and able to assume full custody of the child; whether the birth parent(s)' efforts to assert parental rights were thwarted by other people; the birth parent(s)' ability to care for the child; the age of the child; the quality of any previous relationship between the birth parent(s) and the child and between the birth parent(s) and any other minor children; the duration and suitability of the child's present custodial environment; and the effect of a change of physical custody on the child.

§ 63.2-1206. No parental presumption after revocation period expires.

If, after the expiration of the appropriate revocation period provided for in § 63.2-1223 or § 63.2-1234, a birth parent or an alleged birth parent attempts to obtain or regain custody of or attempts to exercise parental rights to a child who has been placed for adoption, there shall be no parental presumption in favor of any party. Upon the motion of any such birth parent or alleged birth parent, or upon the motion of any person or agency with whom the child has been placed, the circuit or juvenile and domestic relations district court, as the case may be, shall determine (i) whether the birth parent or alleged birth parent is a person whose consent to the adoption is required and, if so, then (ii) pursuant to § 63.2-1205, whether, in the best interest of the child, the consent of the person whose consent is required is being withheld to the detriment of the child and contrary to the best interest of the child, or is unobtainable.

§ 63.2-1222. Execution of entrustment agreement by birth parent(s); exceptions; notice and objection to entrustment; copy required to be furnished; requirement for agencies outside the Commonwealth.

A. For the purposes of this section, a birth parent who is less than 18 years of age shall be deemed fully competent and shall have legal capacity to execute a valid entrustment agreement, including an agreement that provides for the termination of all parental rights and responsibilities, and perform all acts related to adoption and shall be as fully bound thereby as if such birth parent had attained the age of 18 years.

B. An entrustment agreement for the termination of all parental rights and responsibilities with respect to the child shall be valid notwithstanding that it is not signed by the birth father of a child born out of wedlock if the identity of the birth father is not reasonably ascertainable or such birth father did not register with the Putative Father Registry pursuant to Article 7 (§ 63.2-1249 et seq.) of this chapter or the birth father named by the birth mother denies under oath and in writing the paternity of the child. An affidavit signed by the birth mother stating that the identity of the birth father is unknown may be filed with the court alleging that the identity of the birth father is not known or reasonably ascertainable. A birth father shall be given notice of the entrustment if he is an acknowledged father pursuant to § 20-49.1, an adjudicated father pursuant to § 20-49.8, a presumed father pursuant to § 63.2-1202, or a putative father who has registered with Putative Father Registry pursuant to Article 7 (§ 63.2-1249 et seq.) of this chapter. If the putative father's identity is reasonably ascertainable, he shall be given notice pursuant to the requirements of § 63.2-1250.

C. When a birth father is required to be given notice, he may be given notice of the entrustment by registered or certified mail to his last known address. If he fails to object to the entrustment within 15 days of the mailing of such notice, his entrustment shall not be required. Such objection shall be in writing, signed by the objecting party or counsel of record for the objecting party and shall be filed with the agency that mailed the notice of entrustment within the time period specified in § 63.2-1223.

D. The execution of an entrustment agreement shall be required of a presumed father except under the following circumstances: (i) if he denies paternity under oath and in writing in accordance with § 63.2-1202; (ii) if the presumption is rebutted by sufficient evidence, satisfactory to the circuit court, which would establish by a preponderance of the evidence the paternity of another man or the impossibility or improbability of cohabitation of the birth mother and her husband for a period of at least 300 days preceding the birth of the child; (iii) if another man admits, in writing and under oath, that he is the biological father; or (iv) if an the circuit court or juvenile and domestic relations district court determines that the presumed father's failure or refusal to execute an entrustment agreement is to the detriment of the child and that an adoptive placement has been determined to be is in the best interests of the child pursuant to § 63.2-1205.

E. When none of the provisions of subsections C and D apply, notice of the entrustment shall be given to the presumed father pursuant to the requirements of § 16.1-277.01.

F. An entrustment agreement for the termination of all parental rights and responsibilities with respect to the child shall be valid notwithstanding that it is not signed by the birth father of a child when the birth father has been convicted of a violation of subsection A of § 18.2-61, § 18.2-63, subsection B of § 18.2-366, or an equivalent offense of another state, the United States, or any foreign jurisdiction, and the child was conceived as a result of such violation.

G. A birth father may execute an entrustment agreement for the termination of all of his parental rights prior to the birth of the child. Such entrustment shall be subject to the revocation provisions of § 63.2-1223.

H. No entrustment shall be required of a birth father if he denies under oath and in writing the paternity of the child. Such denial of paternity may be withdrawn no more than 10 days after it is executed. Once the child is 10 days old, any executed denial of paternity is final and constitutes a waiver of all rights with respect to the adoption of the child and cannot be withdrawn.

I. A copy of the entrustment agreement shall be furnished to all parties signing such agreement.

J. When any agency outside the Commonwealth, or its agent, that is licensed or otherwise duly authorized to place children for adoption by virtue of the laws under which it operates executes an entrustment agreement in the Commonwealth with a birth parent for the termination of all parental rights and responsibilities with respect to the child, the requirements of §§ 63.2-1221 through 63.2-1224 shall apply. The birth parent may expressly waive, under oath and in writing, the execution of the entrustment under the requirements of §§ 63.2-1221 through 63.2-1224 in favor of the execution of an entrustment or relinquishment under the laws of another state if the birth parent is represented by independent legal counsel. Such written waiver shall expressly state that the birth parent has received independent legal counsel advising of the laws of Virginia and of the other state and that Virginia law is expressly being waived. The waiver also shall include the name, address, and telephone number of such legal counsel. Any entrustment agreement that fails to comply with such requirements shall be void.

§ 63.2-1233. Consent to be executed in juvenile and domestic relations district court; exceptions.

When the juvenile and domestic relations district court is satisfied that all requirements of § 63.2-1232 have been met with respect to at least one birth parent and the adoptive child is at least in the third calendar day of life, that birth parent or both birth parents, as the case may be, shall execute consent to the proposed adoption in compliance with the provisions of § 63.2-1202 while before the juvenile and domestic relations district court in person and in the presence of the prospective adoptive parents. The juvenile and domestic relations district court shall accept the consent of the birth parent(s) and transfer custody of the child to the prospective adoptive parents, pending notification to any nonconsenting birth parent, as described hereinafter.

1. a. The execution of consent before the juvenile and domestic relations district court shall not be required of a birth father if the birth father consents under oath and in writing to the adoption.

b. The consent of a birth father who is not married to the mother of the child at the time of the child's conception or birth shall not be required if the putative father named by the birth mother denies under oath and in writing the paternity of the child or if the putative father did not register with the Putative Father Registry pursuant to Article 7 (§ 63.2-1249 et seq.) of this chapter. If the identity of the birth father is reasonably ascertainable, but the whereabouts of the birth father are not reasonably ascertainable, verification of compliance with the Putative Father Registry shall be provided to the court.

c. When a birth father is required to be given notice, he may be given notice of the adoption by registered or certified mail to his last known address and if he fails to object to the adoption within 15 days of the mailing of such notice, his consent shall not be required. An objection shall be in writing, signed by the objecting party or counsel of record for the objecting party and shall be filed with the clerk of the juvenile and domestic relations district court in which the petition was filed during the business day of the court, within the time period specified in this section. When no timely objection is filed, no hearing on this issue is required. Failure of the objecting party to appear at any scheduled hearing, either in person or by counsel, shall constitute a waiver of such objection.

d. The juvenile and domestic relations district court may accept the written consent of the birth father at the time of the child's conception or birth, provided that his identifying information required in § 63.2-1232 is filed in writing with the juvenile and domestic relations district court of jurisdiction. Such consent shall advise the birth father of his opportunity for legal representation, shall identify the court in which the case was or is intended to be filed, and shall be presented to the juvenile and domestic relations district court for acceptance. The consent may waive further notice of the adoption proceedings and shall contain the name, address and telephone number of the birth father's legal counsel or an acknowledgment that he was informed of his opportunity to be represented by legal counsel and declined such representation. For good cause shown, the court may dispense with the requirements regarding the filing of the birth father's identifying information pursuant to this subdivision 1. d.

e. In the event that the birth mother's consent is not executed in the juvenile and domestic relations district court, the consent of the birth father shall be executed in the juvenile and domestic relations district court.

f. A child born to a married birth mother shall be presumed to be the child of her husband and his consent shall be required, unless the court finds that the father's consent is withheld to the detriment of the child and contrary to the best interests of the child as provided in § 63.2-1205 or if his consent is unobtainable. The consent of such presumed father shall be under oath and in writing and may be executed in or out of court. The presumption that the husband is the father of the child may be rebutted by sufficient evidence, satisfactory to the juvenile and domestic relations district court, which would establish by a preponderance of the evidence the paternity of another man or the impossibility or improbability of cohabitation of the birth mother and her husband for a period of at least 300 days preceding the birth of the child, in which case the husband's consent shall not be required. The executed denial of paternity by the putative father shall be sufficient to rebut the presumption that he is the father of the child. If the court is satisfied that the presumption has been rebutted, notice of the adoption shall not be required to be given to the presumed father.

2. After the application of the provisions of subdivision 1, if a birth parent is entitled to a hearing, the birth parent shall be given notice of the date and location of the hearing and be given the opportunity to appear before the juvenile and domestic relations district court. Such hearing may occur subsequent to the proceeding wherein the consenting birth parent appeared but may not be held until 15 days after personal service of notice on the nonconsenting birth parent, or if personal service is unobtainable, 10 days after the completion of the execution of an order of publication against such birth parent. The juvenile and domestic relations district court may appoint counsel for the birth parent(s). If the juvenile and domestic relations district court finds that consent is withheld to the detriment of the child and contrary to the best interests of the child, as set forth in § 63.2-1205, or is unobtainable, it may grant the petition without such consent and enter an order waiving the requirement of consent of the nonconsenting birth parent and transferring custody of the child to the prospective adoptive parents. No further consent or notice shall be required of a birth parent who fails to appear at any scheduled hearing, either in person or by counsel. If the juvenile and domestic relations district court denies the petition, the juvenile and domestic relations district court shall order that any consent given for the purpose of such placement shall be void and, if necessary, the court shall determine custody of the child as between the birth parents.

3. Except as provided in subdivisions 4 and 5, if consent cannot be obtained from at least one birth parent, the juvenile and domestic relations district court shall deny the petition and determine custody of the child pursuant to § 16.1-278.2.

4. If a child has been under the physical care and custody of the prospective adoptive parents and if both birth parents have failed, without good cause, to appear at a hearing to execute consent under this section for which they were given proper notice pursuant to § 16.1-264, the juvenile and domestic relations district court may grant the petition without the consent of either birth parent and enter an order waiving consent and transferring custody of the child to the prospective adoptive parents. Prior to the entry of such an order, the juvenile and domestic relations district court may appoint legal counsel for the birth parents and shall find by clear and convincing evidence (i) that the birth parents were given proper notice of the hearing(s) to execute consent and of the hearing to proceed without their consent; (ii) that the birth parents failed to show good cause for their failure to appear at such hearing(s); and (iii) that pursuant to § 63.2-1205, the consent of the birth parents is withheld to the detriment of the child and contrary to the best interests of the child or is unobtainable. Under this subdivision, the court or the parties may waive the requirement of the simultaneous meeting under § 63.2-1231 and the requirements of subdivisions A 1, A 3, and A 7 of § 63.2-1232 where the opportunity for compliance is not reasonably available under the applicable circumstances.

5. If both birth parents are deceased, the juvenile and domestic relations district court, after hearing evidence to that effect, may grant the petition without the filing of any consent.

6. No consent shall be required from the birth father of a child placed pursuant to this section when such father is convicted of a violation of subsection A of § 18.2-61, § 18.2-63, subsection B of § 18.2-366, or an equivalent offense of another state, the United States, or any foreign jurisdiction, and the child was conceived as a result of such violation, nor shall the birth father be entitled to notice of any of the proceedings under this section.

7. No consent shall be required of a birth father if he denies under oath and in writing the paternity of the child. Such denial of paternity may be withdrawn no more than 10 days after it is executed. Once the child is 10 days old, any executed denial of paternity is final and constitutes a waiver of all rights with the respect to the adoption of the child and cannot be withdrawn.

8. A birth father may consent to the adoption prior to the birth of the child.

9. The juvenile and domestic relations district court shall review each order entered under this section at least annually until such time as the final order of adoption is entered.

10. When there has been an interstate transfer of the child in a parental placement adoption in compliance with Chapter 10 (§ 63.2-1000 et seq.) of this title, all matters relating to the adoption of the child including, but not limited to, custody and parentage shall be determined in the court of appropriate jurisdiction in the state that was approved for finalization of the adoption by the interstate compact authorities.

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